Editor’s note: This article contains descriptions of violence that may be disturbing to some readers.
Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek is questioning police de-escalation methods following the fatal shooting of Latjor Tuel on February 19.
According to his daughter, Tuel was in the midst of a mental health crisis when police approached him on Saturday. She wrote on a GoFundMe page that her father was a former child soldier in South Sudan and suffered from PTSD.
“Loss of life in our city is tragic at any time, but the loss of Latjor Tuel is particularly devastating,” wrote Gondek in a Twitter thread.
The encounter with police involved a K9 unit and ended with Tuel being shot to death.
Gondek goes on to say that Tuel was loved by friends and family and was a well-known member of Calgary’s Sudanese community.
2/3 While we await an investigation, we question de-escalation methods & use of lethal force. We question why mental health support is not embedded within community policing. We question how to strengthen newcomer support services to deal with complex trauma.
— Jyoti Gondek (@JyotiGondek) February 23, 2022
“He was in crisis,” Gondek said, “[and] we are left with so many questions.”
According to a press release from the Calgary Police Service (CPS), police were called to the area of 45 Street and 17 Avenue SE around 3:40 pm on February 19 for reports of a man believed to be in possession of weapons.
Witnesses reported that the man, now identified as Tuel, had assaulted a bystander and was threatening others. CPS confirmed during a press conference on Tuesday that the man was in possession of a knife and a stick.
— ASIRT (@ASIRT_AB) February 22, 2022
Upon arrival, officers located Tuel, who was still holding the knife and stick and attempted to negotiate a peaceful resolution. “Despite their de-escalation efforts, the man’s action led to officers discharging their service weapons,” reads the press release.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) said in a press release that officers first discharged less-lethal baton rounds at Tuel, and he began running in the direction of a group of police officers, a police dog, and CPS vehicles. ASIRT says that the video shows the dog’s handler pulling back, upon which Tuel advanced in their direction.
ASIRT says Tuel swung the stick and motioned the knife at the dog in the ensuing altercation. The dog bit Tuel and officers used conductive energy weapons on him. The dog was reportedly seriously injured and transported to an animal hospital in a life-threatening condition. It is currently stable and receiving medical care.
Following this, a confrontation occurred between Tuel and the officers. Two Calgary police officers discharged their firearms, shooting Tuel. Emergency medical services and CPS officers provided medical care to Tuel at the scene; however, their efforts were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead.
ASIRT has taken over the investigation of the incident and has not released any video to the public.
Calgary’s mayor said that, while awaiting an investigation, she questions de-escalation methods and the use of lethal force. “We question why mental health support is not embedded within community policing,” wrote Gondek.
She also questions how the city can strengthen newcomer support services to deal with complex trauma. Gondek said that she looks to the Calgary Police Commission to push for policing models that incorporate mental health supports.
“My thoughts are with Mr. Tuel’s family,” Gondek added. “My actions will be focused on de-escalation [and] change.”
Tuel’s daughter, Nyalinglat Latjor, created a fundraiser through GoFundMe entitled “Justice for Latjor Tuel.”
The fundraiser’s goal was set at $70,000, and, at the time of writing, more than $73,500 has been raised. Nyalinglat writes that the money will be used to send Tuel’s body back to South Sudan, for funeral costs, and for legal fees.
Nyalinglat also shared photos of her father in an Instagram post that has garnered nearly 100,000 likes since February 20.